The earth begins to tremble with the percussion of stampeding hooves,
the noise rising to a crescendo of throaty grunts as the herd approaches, all snout and sinew, in a word: spectacular. This is no Discovery channel show; it’s the real deal. The Great Migration of wildebeest from their calving grounds in the Serengeti to their feeding grounds in the Maasai Mara is one of the last great shows on Earth.
Kenya’s appeal in easy to understand. Beneath its snowcapped mountains lie the vast plains and beautiful lakes that support its exotic wildlife and set the stage for the epic migration. Kenya’s temperate year-round climate is a blessing to travelers and travel planners, though the best months for game watching are the dry seasons that last from January – February and July – August.
No other country on earth can offer the visitor as much to see and do as Kenya within the borders of a single country. Kenya is the ancestral home to more than 40 distinct tribal groups. Culture, wildlife, and dramatic scenery rightfully make Kenya the top safari destination.
The experts at the Safari and Conservation Company (www.thesafariandconservationcompany.com), a reservation company founded by two of Kenya’s oldest family settlers, the Roberts and Dyer Families, offer some of the most outstanding experiences that Kenya and East Africa have to offer. Three generations of these families have lived in Kenya and today they have adapted their existence around a more responsible attitude to tourism. According to the experts at the Safari and Conservation Company, a typical length of stay for first-timers would be around 10 days. Reccomended are two or three safari destinations and the option of the beach.
Call of the Wild
Of course, the Maasai Mara National Reserve would be the natural place to send clients, especially during migration period, which changes somewhat from year-to-year. To stay on top of migration predictions, as well as activities and options around the area, visit Safari 365 (www.safari365.com). One of the more high-end camps, Governors’ Camp (www.governorscamp.com) is a cluster of exclusive tented camps in one of the Mara’s best regions for game viewing. All camps within this group are top-notch. From their cuisine to the level of service and guides, these will not disappoint your more discerning clients.
Embarking on a balloon safari in the Maasai Mara is an experience not easily forgotten. The hot-air balloon sets off in the early morning to catch views of the sun between the mountains and ends with a champagne breakfast. If travelers begin farther north at Borana (www.borana.com) in the Laikipia region, guests can not only experience the thrill of safari but also witness a working cattle ranch with a strong commitment to conservation and the local community. For another unique experience, Tropic Air’s small aircraft and helicopters (www.tropicairkenya.com) are a great way to see the savannah.
The Great Lakes of Kenya straddle the center of the Great Rift Valley. From north to south, the valley is lined with a series of freshwater and soda based volcanic lakes and should be high on the list to include when planning an itinerary. A photographer’s heaven, the lakes are home to exotic birds and wildlife like the huge flocks of flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park. With spectacular views of this pink-bordered lake, the Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge (www.sarovahotels.com) on Lake Nakuru is just a short two-hour drive from Nairobi.
Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city is an eclectic mix of traditional culture with modern influences. The usual suspects like Hilton (www.hilton.com), InterContinental (www.ihg.com), and Holiday Inn (www.holidayinn.com) can be found, along with some trendy and chic boutique options. The Tribe – Village Market Hotel, (www.tribe-hotel.com) ideally situated adjacent to the Village Market shopping complex, exudes the essence of Africa with all the creature comforts and then some, including an on-site gym, Village Market, cinema, bowling alley, mini golf course and child-care facilities. If your client expects New York City cool with outstanding service, the Tribe-Village Market Hotel would be a good bet. The Giraffe Manor hotel (www.thesafaricollection.com/properties/giraffe-manor), with its all-inclusive meals and resident herd of giraffes, is always a family favorite. Fairmont’s Norfolk Hotel (www.fairmont.com) is another popular spot, mainly because it’s home to the Lord Delamere Terrace, undeniably the most fashionable restaurant in the city. For day activities in Nairobi, the David Sheldrick Orphanage (www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org) in Nairobi National Park cares for baby elephants that were abandoned or orphaned in the wild, nursing them until they are old enough to join the world to which they belong. The orphanage is also home to some baby rhinos. Lake Naivasha, surrounded by forests of giant acacia trees, is a great place to watch the black and white colobus monkeys play. The lodges on its shores allow day passes for boat rides on the lake or game walks to see some zebras and giraffes at the Crescent Island Game Sanctuary.
Life’s a Beach
A perfect add-on after some time out in the bush is a trip to the white-sand beaches and coral reefs lining Kenya’s coast. Along its shoreline, there is an array of activities including scuba diving and snorkeling. The Kilili Baharini (www.kililibaharini.com) is an interesting find as it is an Italian-run hotel residing on a beautiful white-sand beach, complete with health spa and, of course, the finest Italian cuisine around!
Away from the beach, Fort Jesus and the old town in Mombasa and Shimba Hills National Reserve are easy half-day tours. North of Mombasa are the Gedi Ruins, ancient Swahili ruins dating back to the 8th Century. Mombasa Serena Beach Hotel and Spa (www.serenahotels.com) on Shanzu Beach overlooking the Mombasa Marine National Park boasts coconut palms and Swahili-style architecture with restaurants ranging from bars, coffee shops and cafes for a somewhat lively nightlife.
If there are a couple of extra days to squeeze into the itinerary, add a trip to the island of Lamu, specifically Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having been influenced by many different ethnic groups over the years, from the Portuguese to the Omanis, Lamu is an important center for Islamic and Swahili cultures. Peponi’s on Shela Beach (www.peponihotel.com) overlooks the Lamu Channel along the 8-mile stretch of beach. The rooms are individually decorated and fine dining is served in a cozy restaurant. Charming and private, the hotel is perfect for a romantic retreat. Manda Bay, (www.mandabay.com), a boutique hotel on the North Western tip of Manda Island, part of the Lamu archipelago prides itself on “barefoot elegance.”
A real bucket list destination, travelers should put Kenya at the top of the list. Tourism has resumed, and health requirements and guidance can be found at https://ke.usembassy.gov or www.health.go.ke
More info: www.MagicalKenya.com